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In the first-ever scientific survey ranking countries for their levels of human capital, Singapore emerged in the 13th position, ahead of Japan at 14th position and the US at 27th position. Finland, Iceland, Denmark, the Netherlands and Taiwan came in the top five positions respectively.
Singapore’s ranking of 13th in 2016 represents a major improvement from its 1990 ranking of 43rd. This jump stemmed from having 24 years of expected human capital, measured as the number of years a person can be expected to work in the years of peak productivity, taking into account life expectancy, functional health, years of schooling, and learning.
The study, which lasted from 1990 to 2016, was conducted by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), an independent global health research centre at the University of Washington, and published in the international medical journal The Lancet.
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Globally, the following are the top five countries as measured by peak productivity years:
- The Netherlands
The research focused on the number of productive years an individual in each country can be expected to work between the ages of 20 to 64, taking into account years of schooling, learning in school, and functional health. Singapore’s residents had 44 out of a possible 45 years of life between the ages of 20 and 64, with an expected educational attainment of 12 years out of a possible of 18 years in school; and a learning score of 98 and a functional health score of 82, both out of 100.
Defining human capital as “the sum total of a population’s health, skills, knowledge, experience, and habits”, World Bank president Dr Jim Yong Kim said that it is a concept that recognises that not all labour is equal, and the quality of workers can be improved by investing in them.
Director of IHME, Dr Christopher Murray, said “Underinvesting in people may be driven by lack of policy attention to the levels of human capital. No regular, comparable reporting across all countries on human capital currently exists. Such reporting over the next generation – as a way to measure investments in health and education – will enable leaders to be held accountable to their constituents.”